The average contemporary English speaker knows 50,000 words. Yet stripped down to its origins, this apparently huge vocabulary is in reality much smaller, derived from Latin, French and the Germanic languages. It is estimated that every year, 800 neologisms are added to the English language: acronyms (nimby), blended words (motel), and those taken from foreign languages (savoir-faire). Laid out in an A-Z format with detailed cross references, and written in a style that is both authoritative and accessible, Word Origins is a valuable historical guide to the English language.
This in-depth exploration of the English language covers every nuance and curiosity of this constantly evolving linguistic pastiche. It is estimated that every year 800 neologisms are added to the English language, and include acronyms (NIMBY, Not In My Backyard), blended words (motel), and those taken from foreign languages (savoir-faire). Laid out in an a-to-z format with detailed cross-references and written to appeal equally to students, etymologists, and nonnative speakers, this historical guide is an invaluable resource for this truly global lingua franca.
Word Origins -The Secret Histories of English Words from A to Z.
See ：English has two words see. The older is the verb, ‘perceive visually’ [OE]. Like its Germanic cousins, German sehen, Dutch zien, and Swedish and Danish se, it goes back to a prehistoric *sekhwan, which was descended from an Indo-European base *seq-. This may have been the same *seq- that produced Latin sequī ‘follow’ (source of English sequence, sue, etc), in which case see would denote etymologically ‘follow with the eyes’. See ‘diocese’ originally signified ‘bishop’s throne’. It came via Anglo-Norman se from Vulgar Latin *sedem ‘seat’, descendant of classical Latin sēdem, the accusative case of sēdes ‘seat’. This in turn went back to the Indo- European base *sed- ‘sit’, which also produced English sit.
SIGHT; SEAT, SIT
See : O.E. seon (contracted class V strong verb; past tense seah, pp. sewen), from P.Gmc. *sekhwanan (cf. O.S., O.H.G. sehan, M.H.G., Ger. sehen, O.Fris. sia, M.Du. sien, O.N. sja, Goth. saihwan), from PIE base *sekw- "to see," which is "probably" the same base that produced words for "say" in Greek and Latin, and also words for "follow" (cf. L. sequor), but "opinions differ in regard to the semantic starting-point and sequences" [Buck]. Thus see could originally mean "follow with the eyes." Used in M.E. to mean "behold in the imagination or in a dream" (c.1200), "to recognize the force of (a demonstration)," also c.1200, "often with ref. to metaphorical light or eyes" [OED], and "to learn by reading" (early 15c.). Past tense saw developed from O.E. pl. sawon.
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See : tr. And intr. V., to perceive with the eyes. – ME.seen, sen, fr, OE. seon，rel. to OS., OHG. sehan, MHG., G. sehen, OFris. sia, MDu. Sien, Du. zien, ON. sja,Norw. sjaa, Dan., Swed. se, Goth. saihan, and prob. Cogn. With Hitt. Sakwa-,’eye’; fr. Teut. Base *sehw-, corresponding to I.-E. base *seqw-, ‘to see’, which is etymologically identical with *seq w- in the sense ‘to point out, to say’. See say, v., and cp. Seem, sight.
John Ayto is an experienced lexicographer and author of many language titles. He is Chief Etymologist on the Bloomsbury English Dictionary.